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Review: Tom Bihn Brain Bag

by on August 1, 2005

Sometimes Eric needs to take a little break from writing this site or step aside so someone more qualified can chime in. In this case, Eric’s brother Paul offers a review of a bag to carry all of his gear.

For the most part, backpacks are an essential item for people. Whether it be for school, business, or leisure, having something in which to carry your supplies is important. We took a look at the Brain Bag, a sturdy and versatile backpack from Tom Bihn.

Althoguh the Brain Bag costs $140, it is extremely well-made and spacious. The first thing we noticed was the high-quality construction, followed by the size. The volume is rated at 2200 cubic inches. This is just slightly smaller in capacity than Axio’s Hybrid reinforced backpack, but you can carry almost everything one might require in a day, as well as a few pets in this bag.

Brain Bag
Brain Bag (Front)

Brain Bag
Brain Bag (Back)

Brain Bag
Inner Compartment

Brain Bag
Snake Charmer

Brain Bag
Laptop Keyboard Cover

It contains not one, but two main compartments as well as four external pockets. Each main compartment can hold a laptop, several books, or accessories such as the Freudian Slip. A pair of removable clips allows you to lock in Tom Bihn’s laptop sleeves (the Monolith or the Brain Cell). You can also put a Mac mini in the Brain Bag, using Tom Bihn’s eM², but it will not lock in using the clips.

The two side pockets contain pen/pencil holders, and the top pocket has a snaphook for keys. Right in the middle of the backside are two lash straps that securely hold an umbrella or raincoat. On the left side is a mesh cover, which is perfect for quick-access storage (bottles or small documents fit nicely in this).

As far as protection is concerned, the Brain Bag is very durable. The backpack is made from 1000 denier Cordura. The back is made of Dri-Lex Aero-Spacer mesh and has 3/8″, closed-cell foam for padding and breathability. For water resistance, the pack has a urethane coated interior and an exterior treated with a water-repellent finish. For maximum protection against the elements, it is recommended you use Nikwax.

Alone, the Brain Bag weighs three pounds. Although initially not as heavy as Axio’s Hybrid, but if you add in some books and a laptop, the bag could get pretty heavy. Tom Bihn compensates for this by making the shoulder straps curved with extra padding, as well as a tough sternum and waist strap. However, if you would rather avoid the extra weight completely, a smaller bag might be a better choice for you.

The Brain Bag comes in a variety of colors; you can choose from Sapphire, Olive, Crimson, Steel, Solid Black, or Plum.

To complement the Brain Bag, Tom Bihn sells the Snake Charmer, for an extra $20. This handy little case contains two mesh compartments that neatly store cables, toiletries, or other small items. It’s made of the same material as the backpack, and fits perfectly in either of the larger compartments.

Also on the accessory front, Tom Bihn offers the Laptop Keyboard Cover for $6. Made of “Ultrasuede”, a synthetic suede, it protects from oils and dirt that transfer from the keys, leaving marks on the screen. It will cover almost any recent iBook or PowerBook keyboard, and the actual dimensions are 10″ x 4 1/2″. It’s available in four colors (Graphite, Cobalt, Kiwi and Wild-Caught Salmon). Although similar products already exist on the market, it’s nice to have one that matches your computer luggage, and is quite inexpensive.

The only downside is that you probably will still spend $45-$50 on top of the price of the Brain Bag for one of Tom Bihn’s laptop sleeve to complete the package. You could always use another sleeve, but you will not have the advantage of the latching clips. Add in other accessories and you’re over the $200 mark. We really would have like to see a packaged deal from Tom Bihn (knock $10-$20 off a Monolith/Brain Cell with another bag), as this would improve the value.

Overall, the Brain Bag was a very impressive piece of luggage. Despite its large size, it didn’t feel bulky or uncomfortable in the least bit. The best part, besides the reliability and high-quality construction is that it gives you the abilities to mix and match what accessories you want for the inner comparments, making it a truly personalized product. Although the price might steer some away, you do get what you pay for.

The One-Sentence Verdictâ„¢

The Brain Bag is a solid, well-made backpack with good storage capacity, and high customization.

Pros: Highly durable, large storage capacity, ability to hold multiple laptops, and a lifetime guarantee

Cons: On the expensive side once you add in accessories
Rating: 9/10

The Facts

Product: Brain Bag
Company: Tom Bihn
Price: $140

This post has been filed in 'Book Accessories, Reviews